A Tipping Point

There once was a time when the day I was born seemed like the MOST important day of the year.  I have many fond memories of anticipation, gifts received, parties shared with friends and family and lots and lots of cake.

However, as the years have ticked by I’ve found that the anticipation I once felt for a day ALL about me has faded to something closer to dread.

Instead of the excitement I felt about being the center of attention I now spend more time deflecting questions about when the ACTUAL day of celebration falls.  (Lucky for me I was born on a holiday weekend – so I can give a “near X day” answer and people buy it without further question!)

Instead of the dreaming about where my life is going I have to fight the urge to not belittle the life I have created.

It seems that somewhere after 30 the tipping point between excitement of a “new year ahead” and the sadness of “another year gone” was reached.

My 30th birthday was one of my favorites.  It was spent with close friends watching silly videos on You Tube, drinking home brew and eating copious amounts of snacks from the farmers market (mmm…  cherries!).  It was a long weekend – so we spent a lot of time hanging out in our comfy pants while talking and laughing until we couldn’t breathe.

But, only a few (?) years later I spent the day in my cubicle at work shuffling paper – only to complete errands and chores after I left the office.  I fell into bed at 10pm – realizing that I didn’t take the time for dinner – or the all-important chocolate cake.  I think the kicker to me is that I couldn’t even rustle up a decent mood.  Sour puss all day.

Boo for me and my bad attitude!

So, as I start my first day of my new year I’m struggling to find my happy place(Thank you Mr. Ze Frank.  I WILL type like a crazy secretary today – and many days to come!)

It will take some soul searching, but I will make this year a good one.  Perhaps the next time my day comes around I will have tipped back to a place of excitement and hope for the year to come.

In the meantime – I need to find myself some chocolate cake.

Every Party Needs a Pooper…

And that’s why we invited YOU!

Yeah, that “YOU!” is totally me… 

Today was my company holiday luncheon. 

I could not. 

For the life of me. 

Make.  

Myself.

Go.

I work with a great group of people and my old boss looked sincerely sad when I told him I wouldn’t be attending.  However, in my head this is what kept playing over and over and over:

Bitter & Disenfranchised Employee + Alcohol = Termination (aka No More Paycheck)

I figured it would be a better use of my time to work at getting fired by blogging on the clock.

So, here I sit in blessed silence, avoiding phonecalls and trying to catch up on my dearth of paperwork by sorting throught the ever increasing pile to get the one piece I need, processing said piece, and then repeating the process over and over again.  I usually leave the office feeling like all I did was move the paper around my desk without actually *doing* anything.  At least today I get to do it witout the multiple interruptions!  (Where is X file?  How do you make the wide format plotter email me scans?  How to you add toner to the copier?  How much of my budget do I have left for copies on X project? etc., etc.)

The way my current employer does the holiday luncheon is different from all other parties I’ve attended in the past.  Notice my choice of words: Luncehon vs Party.  We definitely have a luncheon – with booze – but overall still a civilized, employees-only event at a tasteful restaurant in the middle of the working day.  As the Great Recession has progressed my small department became even smaller.  Therefore, the luncheon that used to be filled with those I work with every day became merged with the largest of all departments in my company.  Now it’s a meal attended by very nice people whom I don’t know all that well.  I don’t do small talk all that well and really, really, really don’t want to end up at a table of people whom I only know from seeing their name cc’d on an email.  (I’ve been there before – and was seriously the longest 2.5 hours EVER!)

Now, I’ve worked other places.  There was the bank where I worked on telephone customer service were we also had a “luncheon” idea – even though mine was at night since I worked the swing shift.  That was a nice gathering of 6 people in varying places in their life.  (One employee even younger than me at the time asked the older gay gentleman how he was REALLY sure he was gay.  GREAT workplace dinner conversation!  lol) 

I also worked for another company that had some serious issues overall, but knew how to get down and have a great time.  The last shin dig I attended with that group was at a small local restaurant.  Our company rented out the whole place.  There was an open bar and a fabulous menu.  There was mingling and the meeting/reintroduction of coworkers’ spouse/significant others.  I always loved these engagements because you could really let your hair down and see what the people you worked with were like in “real life”.  (Sometimes this was good – other times not-so-much.)  Plus, as I worked here at a time in my life where money was tight – I felt like I got to “live like the other side” one night a year without worrying I was busting my budget.  Also, as this was always a weekend evening event, I didn’t have to worry about going BACK to work to finish a contract after downing two martinis.

So, as I watched people file past me on their way out the door this afternoon I’ve had “every party needs a pooper” on repeat in my head.  But – one coworker was kind enough to mention that since I won’t be attending this rodeo, another Pooper must be found.

The Hidden Costs of Home Ownership

So, we’ve all pretty much heard the drill.  Owning a home comes with a slough of hidden expenses – everything from that “surprise” tax bill the first year to regular maintenance issues related to what happens when you feed the wildlife in your backyard.  (THAT one, dear readers, is another post.)

But let’s just get real here.  I’m talking about the biggest deal of them all: Christmas Decorations.  We all get the dream going when you buy that first place that has it’s own driveway, yard with a tree, and no landlord restrictions about puncturing the building’s exterior envelope. You imagine a house aglow with warm holiday cheer, frost on the lawn and pansies and violas in full bloom.  (This is Northern California people – no snow, and flowers that others associate with spring.  Work with me here.)   What we all fail to consider is the price of those freaking lights!  Have you priced out that holiday cheer lately?  HOLY MOLEY!  Sure, it’s only $20 for that string of lights.  No big deal until you realize that string will only make it half way around your garage door.  What to do?  Do you splurge on a big wreath and call it a day?  Do you go for that half-way decorated garage door?  Do you barter the cat for some lights someone is trying to offload on Craigslist?  Do you just go without?

In all honesty right now I’m using nature’s decor: a lawn covered in colorful fall foliage.  Granted, I think my neighbors are quickly tiring of my methods/ laziness, as all the leaves that had blown over into their yard last week had been neatly raked into a pile under my tree when I arrived home from work last night.  But – I digress…

Driving down my cookie cutter suburban street I see the whole gamut: large bulb strands tracing the roof eaves of one home right next door to a veritable winter wonderland of lighted sculptures, air inflated snow globes with animatronic figures and a blaze of lights radiating off of every surface.  By the time you reach my house I’m not sure if it just looks sad in it’s unlighted splendor or if it’s a reprieve for the senses!

Then, there is the interior of the home.  Sure – I’ve got enough tree ornaments to sink a small ship and great decorations for a very compact one bedroom or studio apartment.  But, after that, my single box of non-tree decorations is not going to go far in my spacious, but only 1/2 furnished house.

I think that this year I will focus on having a larger than normal tree since I’ve got loads of free square footage and hanging our stockings next to an actual fireplace for the first time since high school.  I think I need to plan on attending those day-after-Christmas sales to get some of those higher priced items that I just cannot make myself pay full price for.  (I love decorations – but let’s be serious – they’re only up for 6 weeks a year MAX.  I need to purchase things like a furniture for the *totally empty* front half of my house before I go hog wild on holiday decorations.)

I love, love, love owning a home and all of the random things it entails.  However, I’m always amazed at how my paycheck has so many places to be (besides my bank account) now that I’m not a renter.  So neighbors – bring on the winter wonderland!  I’m totally sucking off of your decorations this year.  I’ll keep my “nature’s bounty” theme going awhile longer and count on the flashy lights of my surroundings to act as a distraction.  But just you wait – next year I’ll have my day-after-Christmas discounted lights blazing away in all their glory!

O’ Christmas Tree!

So, I’ve been diligently reading about some family and friends and their Christmas tree decorating experiences.  After tearing up, I got to thinking…  When is my cranky-butt going to put up the tree?

Now, I looooove a good Christmas tree.  I love the way they smell.  I love the act of placing the many many ornaments on the tree and reminiscing about each one before carefully placing it in a location I can enjoy.  I can sit for hours in a darkened room and just stare at a lit and fully decorated tree.  Add a cup of coffee and something sweet and I’ll sit there all day!  (Now, actually getting the tree to stand up straight in the stand and loading it with lights – THOSE are not very much fun.  But, they’re totally worth the payoff.)

This year I’m getting a tree.  Last year at this time I was living in a relatively totally ghetto residential hotel  – and there was no way we were bringing anything into that space that would garner attention (which would then result in a break in and stolen items).  However, those fantastic few months are fodder for another post.

So – memories…

As a kid decorating the tree was the unofficial start of the holiday season.  My mom would break out the carefully baked (and then carefully hidden) Christmas cookies for the first time and carols would be put on the record player.  My mom would carefully unwrap each ornament, give it to it’s rightful owner (noted on the box – no mistakes!) and then each ornament was added to the tree.  This was a great family evening – missing this was NOT an option.  We had several hours of family fun each and every year.  (I’m sure there were also periodic fights and tears – after all this WAS a family activity!)  Great memories abound.

Jump ahead to adulthood and it’s just not the same.  My sister’s husband was never much into the whole deal and her kids are still a mite young to be trusted with fragile ornaments.  Boyfriends of my past were never much into it either -even when they were AT the decorating party!  The Big Guy is supportive of my nearly maniacal desire to have and decorate a tree.  But after helping to haul it home (often after providing the $!) and helping to set it up – it’s all just up to me.

Now, I should probably stipulate: I have a LOT of ornaments.  The last time I put up my tree I included only unique ornaments – and there was hardly any green left to be seen after they were all in place, shining in their splendor.  I get one (or five) each year and I love them all.  Not putting some up would seem just wrong.  Adding all of these baubles usually takes several hours and careful thought.  I’m a SERIOUS tree decorator.  (I’m realizing this is making me sound like some sort of holiday hoarder/freak show.  Please don’t judge.)

I’m glad that both of my parents made decorating the tree such a big deal in my youth – and that they continue to make it a family activity at their houses when possible.  But, sometimes I just wonder: was all that fantastical childhood Christmas cheer just setting me up for a letdown come reality/adulthood?

Sometimes doing something on your own has it’s own power – and I really need to apply this to Tree Decorating 2011 and all the years to come.  Perhaps its time for a new tradition?  After the tree is hauled home from the lot and dressed up with lights I’ll pour myself a cup of coffee with some booze in it and get down to business.  The Big Guy can settle down with a movie and I’ll have a conversation with myself as each ornament gets its own special place to shine.